The Fall 2006 Lectures

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Stem Cells:  The Possibilities for Regenerative Cell Therapy

Ian Rogers, Ph.D., Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, U of T

Stem cells are good candidates for tissue and cell therapies but a greater understanding of their basic properties is required before they can be developed for use in the clinic. Embryonic stem cells, which have the ability for self-renewal and are able to produce many different cell types, are derived from the early embryo but under normal conditions early embryonic cells are only capable of producing many diverse cell types, but are not capable of unlimited self-renewal. Adult stem cells are capable of self-renewal over a typical human life span but are only capable of giving rise to more blood cells. It is important to understand the characteristics of naturally occurring stem cells and how growing them outside of the body in culture dishes can alter their properties.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Science, Technology, Society and the Environment: Education for the New Millennium

Erminia Pedretti, Ph.D., Department of Curriculum, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, U of T (OISE/UT)

Daily we are confronted with science-related issues such as air and water quality, power generation, the ubiquitous use of petrochemicals, bioengineering, global warming, pandemic health threats and poverty, to name a few.  These issues encompass scientific, technological, societal, environmental, ethical, economic and political dimensions.  How do we equip students to deal with such an array of contemporary and pervasive socioscientific issues?  How do we move school science beyond teaching students a narrow range of knowledge and skills toward a broader issues-based approach?  The speaker will explore the potential role of science education in addressing these questions.

Sunday, October 29, 1006

The Curious World of Probabilities

Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, Ph.D., Department of Statistics, U of T

Probabilities and randomness arise whenever we're not sure what will happen next.  They apply to everything from lottery jackpots to airplane crashes, casino gambling, homicide rates, medical studies, election polls, avian flu, coincidences, and games of poker.  They are also essential for statistical inference and for Monte Carlo computer algorithms.  This talk (inspired by the author's recent book, "Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities") will explore uncertainty's ubiquity, and discuss how a Probability Perspective can shed new light on familiar situations.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Music and the Patterns of the Mind and World

Jordan B. Peterson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, U of T

The fact that music produces a deep sense of meaning is subjectively undeniable, at least for those to whom music naturally speaks. The reason for this meaning, however, is difficult to understand.  Is this experience merely an illusion?  We normally conceive of the environment as a place of segregated objects, and such a conceptual perspective has proved extremely useful, pragmatically. However, the environment can also be construed as a complexly patterned array of relationships.  We are biologically hardwired to respond to information about the structure of the environment with emotion and motivation and music activates these motivational systems.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Merging the Nature/ Nurture Dichotomy

Susannah Varmuza, Ph.D., Department of Cell and Systems Biology, U of T

Since the rediscovery of genetics at the turn of the last century, biologists have debated the impact of nature and nurture on the development, viability and behaviour of living organisms. Many studies of twins have suggested that both play a major role in the final outcome, but little is known about how these two forces affect us. Recent studies in the emerging field of epigenetics have provided concrete evidence of the interplay between nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment), and have directed our attention to the place they intersect  the genome. Examples will illustrate a growing understanding of how nature and nurture mould us.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Earthquake Hazards and their Mitigation

Shamin A. Sheikh, Ph.D., P. Eng.,   

Department of Civil Engineering, U of T

The Kashmir earthquake of October 8, 2005 was the latest of major earthquakes that have caused devastation around the world.  In addition to more than 76,000 deaths and 80,000 injured, the earthquake made over 3 million people homeless.  Most of the loss of life and damage was due to the destruction of housing and other structures.  Structures built before 1971 even in the developed countries were not adequately designed for earthquake resistance.  In the developing world, a large part of construction still lacks the minimum seismic standards.  Recent developments in earthquake engineering research provided guidelines for the design of new structures and retrofitting of old ones for safe earthquake resistance.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Special Free Event for Ages 7 to 12

Flying, flinging, flapping, floating and falling -- an introduction to Physics!  Exercise your mind and body in the name of science with Russell Zeid.   An hour of fun for kids followed by complimentary refreshments.   No reservations.

Sunday, December 12, 2006


A Little Light Relief: The Science of Photo Medicine

David Phillips, B.Sc., Ph.D., Hofmann Professor of Chemistry and Senior Dean, Imperial College, London, England

Light, particularly sunlight, has always occupied a mystical power over all civilizations and is commonly held to bestow good health upon recipients of its rays. That there is both truth and fallacy in such beliefs will be demonstrated in this lecture, which deals with the science of photo-medicine. The subject encompasses effects of light on the skin, diagnostic uses of light, and therapeutic aspects. We will concentrate on the latter, but not before a brief consideration of harmful effects of solar radiation. Therapeutic uses include treatment of skin complaints such as psoriasis, treatment of neonatal jaundice, and photo-inactivation of viral, bacterial and fungal infections. The laser has revolutionized some aspects of medicine, and laser applications discussed will include surgery using infrared and ultraviolet lasers and the use of lasers plus chemical sensitizers to destroy tumours selectively (photodynamic therapy). The topic is illustrated with many demonstrations, and gives an overview of the subject from the point of view of a chemist.

For more information on the Stoicheff Lectures, co-sponsored by the RCI and the

U of T’s Institute for Optical Studies, go HERE